A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
what really upset me is that in spite of everything I’ve endured, the child’s father took him from me without giving me any sort of compensation. I don’t understand how this man, who has caused me so many problems, could have taken my child. I had no soap even, I got ill and had no money to get treatment. I’m dying of unhappiness. The authorities have to help me to get my child back. I’d better stop here.
The war in Burundi has generated widespread violence over a long period, and has had massive and varied impacts on Burundi’s people, society and economy. However, groups within the population have been affected in different ways, and for this reason the reconstruction and peace-building phase needs to be based on principles of social justice, ensuring that responses are designed that are appropriate for each category. Unfortunately, intervention agencies tend to base their actions on a global analysis, rather than examining the specificity and the needs of each category. This tends to act to the detriment of women and youth, reinforcing inequalities between men and women over time and pushing the needs of youth into second place. During this reintegration phase, in which the priorities are to support the victims of the war and to revitalise the economy, corrective measures should be adopted, in view of the numerical importance and the vulnerability of
these two categories.
Plans for the reintegration phase are often drawn up during cease-fire negotiations, where women are mainly absent, and so their needs may not be taken into account when demobilisation and reintegration plans are being drawn up. As a result, most of them fail to go through the formal reintegration system. This is especially true of those who are not fighters as such but who joined the fighters in other capacities. Girls who have suffered violence, who are often illiterate and without resources, are marginalised and rejected even by those whose duty it is to protect them, with all the ingredients combined for their exclusion. Most violence against girls is combined with sexual abuse, with the result that stigma and discrimination become their shared fate throughout their lives.
International humanitarian and human rights law includes instruments which specifically enshrine the rights of children and women, both globally and in their African regional interpretations. UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1612 require the specific needs of women and children respectively to be taken into account in conflict and post-conflict periods. Together, these instruments provide, in principle and in specific ways, for the protection of girls against sexual exploitation,
and for their integration into post-conflict reconstruction programmes.